SEA ISLE CITY — Sisters Dottie and Eileen Fean are leading a protest against plans by the city to build offices and a welcome center at the Sea Isle City Community Lodge on John F. Kennedy Boulevard and Park Road.
Dottie, 84, and Eileen, 75, said they have gathered about 200 petition signatures against the plan and have already had one meeting with Mayor Leonard Desiderio.
The Feans are worried about traffic and parking issues the addition might cause at the lodge — a community center mostly for seniors that is used for bingo, AARP meetings, aerobics classes, sit-and-be-fit classes, civic club meetings, card games and other events.
“There are six restaurants here and the amusement park nearby,” Eileen Fean said. “There will be no parking in the summer. It’s too congested.”
The sisters, holding up a sign in protest on Friday afternoon, also worry about traffic coming off the bridge trying to brake suddenly to visit a welcome center.
“They way they fly off that bridge, they’re not going to stop. They’ll never be able to pull over in time,” Dottie Fean said.
Desiderio, however, said the project will not affect any of the programs at the lodge and would actually improve the restroom facilities there. He said the city has looked at other sites, and this one makes the most sense. He said one idea was to put the welcome center on the Dennis Township side of the bridge coming into town.
“I proposed the other side of the bridge, but it was decided the best place was in our town,” Desiderio said.
Desiderio said traffic coming off the bridge and trying to make the right turn to the welcome center would eventually benefit from a traffic signal Cape May County plans to install at John F. Kennedy Boulevard and Park Road. The project is slated to be done in fall 2012 when the roadway is elevated above flood stage. Desiderio said there will be adequate parking and he is not concerned about increased traffic.
“There’s traffic everywhere in Sea Isle,” Desiderio said.
The lodge, dedicated in 2001, is now about 4,000 square feet. Plans call for adding on another 1,800 square feet. The city is currently advertising for bids.
Desiderio said the addition would include a beach tag office, tourism department office, welcome center, new restrooms, and the $200,000 federal grant will help make the facility handicapped accessible. The main feature is a welcome center at the entrance to town.
“We have one on the Promenade but you need one where tourists arrive,” Desiderio said.
The Feans point to other places that the facility could go including the local school, the library or by Veterans Park a short distance down the boulevard.
Eileen Fean said the school has been offering its space for community uses but city officials argue it is not close enough to the entrance of town.
“They say it’s off the beaten path, so you put up some signs,” she said.
“They said they couldn’t use the library because it’s falling down, but where did they just move the aerobics class? The library,” Eileen Fean said.
Desiderio said the project has been discussed for three years and there have already been public hearings and a City Council approval.
“This is not something that has just come up,” he said.
Still, he said the Feans are following the democratic process and he has no issues with what they are doing.
“They’re dolls. They’re good ladies. They’ve done a lot for community,” he said.
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